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The figure of Yakshi, dancing fully absorbed and transported into a being beyond her, has been installed on a moderately tall lotus-pedestal inside a beautifully conceived ‘prabhavali’ consisting of conventionalised lotus motifs with a flower-like looking beaded medallion atop. From the centre of this beaded medallion release on either side bunches of decorative laces looking like whiskers of the mythical lion usually comprising a Kirtti-mukha motif’s part. This ornamental member atop the ‘prabhavali’ hence looks like a Kirtti-mukha motif, whether endowed with its auspiciousness or not is not known. Except its upper part curving like an arch, the ‘prabhavali’ is a simple structure composed of two parallel columns rising from the lotus-base which the dancer’s figure enshrines. The outer half of the ‘prabhavali’ consists of the lotus design, while the inside, of the courses of beads and other ornamental design-motifs.
The figure’s hands, the rhythmically folded left, turned back to shoulder, and the right, straightened but for a mild curve, and fingers, illustrating a narrative : a tale or a dialogue, outwardly twisted knees and correspondingly positioned feet, the widened toes and the close heels, sash, waist-band and other components of ensemble floating into the air, or rather the entire geometry of her figure, all reveal her dancer’s identity, and her transcendental beauty and rare grace, her celestial links. The dance form she is absorbed into is a form of Kathaka – one of India's main classical dances, which developed in the course of time by synthesizing dance idioms of the north, Oudh and Brij in particular, and is hence universally revered as the dance of North.
As the term literally means, Kathaka is a dance of ‘katha’ – tale, teller : initially a male dancer’s performance. Except a forward thrust revealing in the legs’ demeanour, as the story-telling sometimes required, Kathaka is a dance of upright stance with the body held absolutely erect, even the knees not revealing deflection. However, as document some early sculptures from Rajasthan, it later developed, regionally or in entirety, also a half-seated posture with outward turned knees, as in this wooden sculpture, though body-forms that revealed story-telling were yet the key-concern of Kathaka. Maybe, instead of an erect figure a body-posture with deflecting knees created greater visual drama, and was hence sculptor’s priority. In any case, with decisive emphasis on the story-telling body-posture, the dance form represented in the statue is essentially Kathaka. The position of legs with deflecting knees is a characteristic posture of Bharatanatyam, the classical dance of the South. Maybe, the sculptor has blended into the form of his dancer this element from the Bharatanatyam tradition.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.